Idaho officials eye purchase of 1,400-acre forest parcel
Posted 3:49 p.m. Tuesday
BOISE, Idaho — In a push to add more forests to state endowment lands, the Idaho Land Board voted Tuesday to consider buying about 1,400 acres near St. Maries from the state Department of Fish and Game.
The unanimous vote by the five-member board is part of the board's new strategic reinvestment plan to use about $160 million from commercial real estate and residential cottage site sales to buy timberland and agricultural land.
The land near St. Maries has an appraised value of $4.6 million.
The vote directs the Idaho Department of Lands to pursue buying the land and to hire an independent timberland adviser to analyze the possible purchase.
Secretary of State Lawerence Denney questioned the initial appraisal of $3,300 an acre. However, officials with the Idaho Department of Lands said the parcel is thick with harvestable timber, explaining the price.
"Hopefully the harvest of that timber will come a long ways in paying that off," Denney said after the meeting. "And it is productive timber ground so it will be good for the future."
The land has been on Fish and Game's surplus list since 1990. Officials said that means it has few unique or critical wildlife-related values requiring management by Fish and Game.
If the sale went through to the Department of Lands, officials said it would remain open to the public.
"The property would continue to provide wildlife habitat and public access under IDL ownership and management," Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said in a statement. "And the Fish and Game Commission would use the funding derived from its sale to protect priority habitats and public access they have identified."
State officials say there are several more forest land purchases in the works.
The state received 3.65 million acres of endowment land at statehood in 1890. Over the years, it has sold about 33 percent and now has about 2.44 million acres remaining.
The Land Board in February approved selling most of the commercial real estate managed by the state after it became a political liability for some board members in the 2014 election. Election opponents contended that state-owned commercial property unfairly competes with businesses.
A financial adviser has previously told the board that now is the time to sell the commercial property because of its high value.
"When the market is hot you try to sell," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said after the meeting. "It's really the financials that drive all of that. "